By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — Two dozen kids from the Benton Harbor Boys & Girls Club crowded around a television set in the drama room, which was connected by a wire to a laptop computer.
Upon the television and laptop screens was Michael Jackson and his zombie compadres dancing to the beat of the hit single “Thriller.”
The kids erupted in movement, dragging their feet and slumping their shoulders to mimic the zombies and the King of Pop. They continued to dance and sing along to the 1982 music video as instructions poured in from Syreeta Hassel, who encouraged everyone to join in – even if it was momentarily.
“I remember when I watched this for the first time, I was really, really scared,” Hassel said as the rest of the room clapped their hands and slid their feet on the floor. Hassel is the performing arts instructor for the club.
Among those dancing kids were two volunteers from Whirlpool Corp., who showed everyone their favorite part of the song.
They were among the 22 Whirlpool and Maytag volunteers who spent three hours at the Benton Harbor Youth Campus for what’s become known as the Maytag Day of Dependability.
It was the third such volunteering event held by the home appliance maker this year, while adding a new twist at the same time.
Rosa Keszler, a Whirlpool community relations specialist, said the idea to add a theme to each visit came when they received feedback from previous volunteers. It proved to be a way to mix things up each time they returned to the Boys & Girls Club.
“It always seemed to be around the holidays, so we got together with the Boys & Girls Club and came up with themes for most of our ongoing days of dependability,” Keszler said. “It keeps volunteers and the kids interested.”
On Thursday, the kids took part in the new theme which was called Harvest Day. The day included activities like making caramel apples, decorating sugar cookies into turkeys, a scavenger hunt, dancing, a poetry contest and a fitness competition.
The group of kids that danced to “Thriller” were among more than 200 that took part in Harvest Day. After they finished dancing in the drama room, they moved to the art room.
There the kids were able to decorate sugar cookies by choosing from an array of frosting, gummy worms, M&Ms, sprinkles and crushed Oreos.
Traci Burton, media arts instructor at the Benton Harbor Boys & Girls Club, led the students in decorating their cookies. She said a lot of them got creative.
“I’ve seen a lot of emojis and someone made a Mortal Kombat mask. It’s been a lot busier than I expected,” Burton said in reference to her cookie-decorating station. “It’s been fun. My teeth were hurting just looking at them pile all that stuff on.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Nov. 4, 2016)